May 2022 Roundup

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures // Directed by Sam Raimi // Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, Michael Stuhlbarg, Rachel McAdams

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Time for another trip into the Marvel Cinematic Universe - the 28th, in fact - and this time our host is Doctor Strange himself. The location? A multiverse of madness. With Sam Raimi at the helm, surely this couldn’t be anything other than a fun, zany jaunt packed with adventure, mystery, and thrills? Weeeell, it turns out that actually…it can. It’s not that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is necessarily bad, it’s just disappointing given its potential. Acting as more of a sequel to WandaVision then 2016’s Doctor Strange, the movie finds Strange (Cumberbatch) travelling between universes in order to protect the prodigious America Chavez (Gomez) from the devastating threat of the Scarlet Witch (Olson). Why does she want her? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out, but do so knowing that Chavez simply and sadly exists here as an expository device, a McGuffin. The screenplay does no one any real favours in a thin plot that relies heavily on its visuals and need for fans (stans) to latch onto Wanda and her rampage. Thankfully, the performances are all solid enough to mask the narrative issues and Raimi pulls every trick from his arsenal into the movie - this is undoubtedly a Raimi movie that just exists in the MCU. It’s certainly a stylish looking movie, and, yes, the expected horror elements are pushed to the forefront in what is the MCU’s first real dive into the genre and we get some very good scenes due to this - one particular sequence had my audience gasping at the popping, slicing, and crushing nature of it. Disappointingly, these sequences really don’t add up to much in the grand scheme of things and exist solely to provide ‘cool’ moments. Ironically, these fleeting moments are probably the highlights of the movie as everything else surrounding it - including Strange portal hopping, the score, some of the CGI - is pretty lacklustre, and, at times, boring. For a movie that includes the title ‘Multiverse of Madness’, you wouldn’t be wrong for expecting…madness. The movie does not deliver in that sense and the focused multiverses are rather mundane compared to what we could’ve had (and what we actually saw in a montage) which is strange (no pun intended) given the apparent freedom Raimi was afforded in other aspects of the movie. Having really enjoyed Doctor Strange, the sequel comes as a disappointment, and, despite having some exciting sequences and solid performances, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness ends up feeling uneven, unbalanced, and unfocused.

 

Everything Everywhere All at Once

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A24 // Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert // Starring Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr., James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis

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To elaborate on Everything Everywhere All at Once is to spoil the experience. In the simplest terms, the movie follows a Chinese immigrant family struggling under the weight of tax issues alongside varying relationship problems. In reality, it is so, so much more than that. EEAAO is a fizzing cacophony of originality, creativity, heart, and more than a hint of absurdity. But, make no mistake, Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn is the focal point of the movie alongside her daughter Joy (played wonderfully by Hsu). It is their relationship that propels the narrative through its multiverse-spanning journey - with help from Quan’s Waymond, Hong’s Gong Gong, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ hard-nosed IRS agent Deirdre. It is Yeoh, however, who is the star of the show here as she is asked to run the gamut of emotions playing multiple versions of herself in an action-packed, emotionally charged performance. Throughout the multiverse on offer here, we are introduced to truly weird and wonderful characters, situations, lifestyles, and more as the Daniels (Swiss Army Man helmers Kwan and Scheinert) utilise the full madness of the concept - and some of the results genuinely are mad. Raccoons, hot dogs, bagels, and more populate the multiple universes on show. It is key to point out that family remains the focus amongst the madness and humour, Kwan and Scheinert crucially never lose sight of this whilst providing a rather profound take on generational trauma, existentialism, and identity. As well as that, EEAAO provides an emotional journey throughout as the stresses and strains begin to take hold of Evelyn and those around her culminating in a waterwork-inducing finale. It really is an impressive feat given the eccentric and outlandish nature of the movie. In a time where cinemagoers are crying out for originality, Kwan and Scheinert have again answered the call with a fearless and nonconformist romp. Bonkers. Chaotic. Wild. A cinematic maverick. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a rare treat.